Exploring The Creation Museum - America's New Mecca of Fanatical Ignorance
If you ask the average Christian what The Bible means to them, you're likely to get a wide variety of answers, but in most cases it's probably a somewhat personal thing. They identify with the stories, they regard the teachings of Jesus as guidelines for their lives, they believe He's their salvation, et cetera et cetera. Most would probably tell you that The Bible is a very important book to them - maybe the most important thing they've ever read. They would tell you it guides their daily lives, provides them hope, sculpts their sense of morality, et cetera, et cetera. What the majority of them would hopefully have a very hard time telling you, however, is that The Bible is meant to be interpreted as a literal history book. That every single word of it is a literal truth. Even the most devout Christian will likely tell you that the story of Adam and Eve is merely an allegory* - and they'd be right. It's a simple way of conveying the general Christian ideas of God's relationship with man, and the nature of sin. I suppose the original authors of the Old Testament may have believed it to be absolutely true, but to put that in context, the prevailing wisdom of the time was that God kept the sun in a boat full of deities who sailed across the sky every day trying to prevent said sun from being eaten by an evil serpent.
Thousands of years later, we've discovered that the sun is in fact a giant ball of gasses, and it doesn't sail across the sky, but merely appears to because our planet is (believe it or not) round, and constantly rotating. We've discovered all of this, and a lot more, very slowly over hundreds of thousands of years through the compounded knowledge of millions of people throughout history pooling their intellectual efforts in a meticulous process known as science. And it works. It works so well it has given us automobiles, electricity, space travel, modern medicine, video games, butt funnels, and the network of computers delivering this website to you right at this moment - all of which were developed in the thousands of years after The Bible was written by a persecuted ancient people desperate for supernatural intervention. Whether its authors were channeling the word of God or not is a debate for another day - but what we know, for a fact, they were not doing, is writing the literal history of the Universe. Well, most of us know that for a fact. The people who believe otherwise call themselves Young Earth Creationists.
Young Earth Creationists are a batshit-crazy sect of religious fanatics at the deep end of Christian fundamentalism, who believe that The Bible is, quote, "the history book of the Universe." They believe every word of The Bible is not only the word of God, but is absolute literal truth, and the only truth in the Universe against which all other truths must be compared. So, of course, a manmade concept like science is a flawed, malleable thing which must be twisted around in order to fit with the words of The Bible. The most brazen of modern Young Earth Creationists (YECs, for short) believe this can be done without compromising religion or science. What, then, does The Bible say about history? Well, among other things, it says that the world is roughly 6,000 years old, dating the dawn of man to a period of time rich with recorded history of the development of urban cultures and early technology. So not merely evolution, but all of our concepts of the earth being millions of years old, the lineage of dinosaurs, the ice age, early man, and the entire history of human civilization - all of that is horribly incorrect, according to the YECs. All of the evidence gathered over thousands of years to support the history of the world has been misconstrued by secular scientists to further the "evolutionist agenda." 99.9 percent of scientists and experts in relevant fields are apparently drastically, drastically mistaken, but a tiny group of blue collar yokels have it all figured out. Riiiiiiight.
YECs are a comically ignorant cult of horrendously misguided fruitcakes, but the problem isn't their ludicrous beliefs. For all I care you can believe that God is a space turtle who shits out the world every morning and eats it again every night, and one day the world will hatch open and the almighty Son of Turtle God will emerge from the placenta of the earth and vomit rainbows onto the true believers before carrying them on His back to the promised land of Turtopia. It's a free country, go nuts. The problem with Young Earth Creationists - and most all flavors of Creationists, for that matter - is that they have a disproportionately loud voice, and believe they need to fight back against the "lies" of science in the public sphere. They've introduced the less-crazy-sounding term "intelligent design," and their greatest achievement thus far has been creating the idea, in the media, in the government, and in the minds of many Americans, that there is a "debate" in regards to evolution. Scientists even fall prey to this, feeling the need to counter Creationist pseudo-science to defend the legitimacy of real science. Creationists are like internet trolls, shouting mindless garbage in caps-lock, baiting people who should know better into engaging them in debate. And like internet trolls, Creationists can never lose, because they've thrown logic and reason out the window so they can fight with their own set of nonsensical rules. But here's the thing: There is no debate. None at all. Evolution vs. Young Earth Creationism is not a debate any more than evolution vs. any of the world's thousands of other wildly varying creation myths. There are plenty of places to inject God into the scientific history of the Universe, if that's your thing, but six thousand years ago is not one of them. The earth was not made in six days. The important thing for rational people to grasp is not that they're on the right side of the argument, but that there isn't an argument to begin with, and we need to stop humoring these fundamentalist looney toons as if they have a place at the table table of civilized discourse, and instead focus on exposing them as the dangerous group of extremists they are. Picking and choosing which aspects of hard-won science you agree with is perilous territory, especially when the people who make our laws start to listen (you can dig a little deeper into my thoughts on all that here if you're so inclined).
With all that in mind, I'd like to take you on a shamelessly intolerant journey through the bizarro world of Young Earth Creationist pseudo-science, as we explore... The Creation Museum.
There's a fine line between faith and stubbornness. One can only imagine how difficult it must be for Young Earth Creationists, clinging devoutly to beliefs so outrageous even their fellow Christians won't back them up. As a Creationist parent, how do you explain to your curious children that their teachers are lying, their books are lying, their movies and TV shows are lying? How do you successfully indoctrinate a developing mind with your true version of history when everyone else seems determined to beat God's word to a bloody pulp and dance on its corpse? Well, the best way is to isolate yourself from common sense, restricting your child to Creationist literature, Creationist schooling, and now, The Creationist Museum.
For those of you who haven't heard about this yet (and I'm surprised how many people still haven't), The Creation Museum is the crowning achievement of religious stupidity - a shrine of ignorance that only America's chewy center could play host to. It's a $27 million dollar, 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art complex in Kentucky, designed to look and feel exactly like a science/natural history museum. It has elaborate dioramas of animals and nature, audio-visual presentations, animatronic dinosaurs, fossil replicas, diagrams of geological formations, and even a gift shop. But one small detail sets it distinctly apart from other science museums you've probably visited: There is not a single shred of science on display within its walls. Worse still, its very existence is a bold mockery of science itself.
The museum was built and privately funded by a group called Answers In Genesis, whose founder is a skeletal Australian crackpot named Ken Ham. Ham, as you can see in the picture on the left, looks like an evil Abe Lincoln and would seem very much at home eating human fetuses to sustain his life force. He was indoctrinated from birth with strict Creationist ideology, and has devoted his life to spreading the "true word of God" while waging war on evolutionary science, which he believes to be a termite infestation in the wooden foundation of a good Christian society. Ham thinks of evolution as a sort of "gateway drug" into the Godless world of secularism. After all, he argues, if you don't believe in The Bible's account of Creation, what's to stop you from taking liberties with The Bible's other teachings? Start thinking we all evolved from monkeys and pretty soon you'll be snorting crack, aborting babies, and doing all kinds of fag stuff (in other words, my typical friday evenings), and, well, there goes the neighborhood.
For someone who doesn't believe in evolution, Ham also looks remarkably like Dr. Zaius:
Here's an introduction to Ken Ham's Creationist crazytalk - this is a clip from a presentation Ham made for poor impressionable Christian children, doomed to play out their lives inside a dark chamber of ignorance. Watch how cunningly manipulative he is in his simplified discussion of science vs. The Bible:
Notice the condescending way Ham speaks to the children - as if they're pests he must deal with only because it's necessary to further his agenda. After all, no free-thinking adult would ever subscribe to any of this crap, so the lies have to be soaked into spongy pint-sized brains eager to believe anything they're told. That's the chief motivation behind Mr. Ham's pride and joy - the oily skidmark on the underpants of American reason that is The Creation Museum. I was recently in Kentucky on business and was fortunate enough to take a field trip out to this mecca of lunacy - and of course, I documented every step for your enjoyment.
Upon arrival at the museum, I didn't even have to get any farther than the parking lot to understand I was in hostile territory. We're talking Bush-voting, gun-toting, gay-fearing, redder-than-red state Bible Belt fundamentalism here. Nearly every car in the lot was speckled with Jesus fish, right wing slogans, yellow ribbons, and bumper stickers offering scary religious rhetoric. I had wondered if this museum would be a novelty, a quirky roadside attraction filled with as many snickering skeptics as devout fanatics - but it became quickly clear that indeed, this was a place built with passion for the true believers, here to soak up knowledge and explore a version of junk science that finally makes them feel sane in an insane world. It was my friend and I, the black-clad blue state secular heathens, who were noticeably out of place.
Outside the museum gates stands a large bronze dinosaur, setting the tone for one of the museum's main themes. Why dinosaurs? For one, they've been a huge problem for Young Earth Creationists: how can The Bible's creation story be true if there were giant lizards roaming the earth millions of years before mankind? Historically Creationists have sometimes resorted to thinking of dinosaur fossils as "tests of faith" placed by God Himself, but the Creation Museum revels in its acceptance of the ancient behemoths. They're real, they existed, and everything science has taught us about them is true. Well, except for one tiny little thing: Instead of existing a hundred million years ago, T-Rex and pals co-existed with humans when the earth was made six thousand years ago. Yes, dinosaurs and humans lived together, and the Creation Museum has all the "science" to prove it, including its own interpretation of fossil records.
From the very first exhibit, the museum's mission is clear: It knows the real truth, it's joyously unashamed of its beliefs, and it simultaneously welcomes skeptics and comforts believers by presenting a careful counterpoint to every contradicting piece of scientific evidence you could imagine. It does this by picking and choosing the parts of science it agrees with, and filling in the resulting gaping holes in logic with supernatural "just because" reasoning. It's all extremely convincing to its laymen visitors, who already want to believe and have neither the knowledge nor desire to question the faulty research. It's not a coincidence these beliefs appeal largely to uneducated simpletons: Much of the YEC's flawed logic is in line with Kirk Cameron's (hilarious) banana demonstration: Because the scientific reasoning is too convoluted to understand, God must have made it. The easiest way to understand why nature works as efficiently as it does is to just say it was designed that way. Every ounce of it shatters magnificently into pieces under even the gentlest scientific scrutiny, but none of that matters when all logic has been disregarded from step one. There is no way for rationality to win here - it's like trying to prove the sky is blue to someone wearing red-tinted glasses. It's never going to happen, so you might as well just sit back and enjoy sipping on the big fat glass of crazy they've poured for you. And remember: This is not a joke. It's not even a "what if," or a "Bible stories brought to life" type of deal. This is presented as absolute truth, as genuine science, and its hundreds of thousands of followers believe it as fervently as you or I believe in gravity or oxygen or The Force. ...Okay, the last one is just me.
The museum was extremely busy on a weekday afternoon, filled almost exclusively with the stone-washed jeans, tucked-in shirts, and patriotic colors of Wal-Mart brand families, who regarded my friend and me with raised eyebrows and icy stares. They probably thought we were gay, and were afraid they might catch it. They had all come from near and far to show their children the true word of God brought to life like never before, and yes, tots of all ages were prancing excitedly through the exhibits, enthralled with the elaborate set pieces and animatronic creatures. Indeed, one of the first things to see inside the museum walls is an animatronic dinosaur lurking in the bushes amidst man-made structures. A few feet away, a robotic child plays happily, unconcerned about the presence of a vicious reptilian carnivore:
The child is the type of nightmare-inducing hellspawn mutant only someone as creepy as Ken Ham could be pleased with - watch how fucking scary this thing is:
The cohabiting child and dinosaur animatronics are a reminder of the second, far more sinister motivation behind the museum's prominent use of ancient reptiles: kids love dinosaurs. If you have kids, or know kids, or ever were a kid (which seems likely), you know this firsthand. Kids are completely bonkers about dinosaurs, which makes brainwashing them with fundamentalist propaganda that much more difficult when they have to be told dinosaurs never existed. The Creation Museum changes all that, and it uses the fun of dinosaurs as a trojan horse for its dangerous brand of pseudo-science. It's all tailored very carefully to youngsters, and it's incredibly damaging in its presentation of science as a flawed string of fragile theories that can be manipulated as needed to conform to fringe beliefs. When parents indoctrinate their child with these kinds of ideas, and a "science" museum filled with exciting sights and sounds backs it up and answers every lingering question, that child is going to grow up with an extremely warped, frighteningly ignorant perception of the world, and have a very hard time making rational decisions later in life. The museum exists to nourish an unhealthy state of ideological war with the rest of society, and if all of its junior attendees grow up without ever having the opportunity to make their own decisions about religion and faith, then Ken Ham has succeeded marvelously.
Anyway, let's follow the museum's journey through the true history of the Universe, as told by The Bible's Old Testament. It all got started when God created the earth in six days. We've all heard that part. He created the land, the seas, all the animals, the birds, the fish, and the dinosaurs, and then, in His own image, He created the first man, Adam. Adam and all of the animals lived in Paradise - but what's any kind of Paradise without naked chicks? So God made Eve out of Adam's rib, and the two of them lived together in the Garden of Eden.
(click to enlarge, in case you hadn't figured that out by now)
They lived in harmony with the animals, including the dinosaurs, because all animals were herbivores in Paradise, and there was no violence, because there was no sin - which also made it perfectly okay for them to be naked all the time. Adam and Eve just hung out all day, naked, eating fruit and playing with their animal friends, and presumably with themselves. They kinda had it made. The only rule was they weren't allowed to eat fruit from this one tree, because, well, they just weren't. It was a bad tree with bad fruit. Seems like a dumb-ass thing to stick in the middle of Paradise, but at least God specifically told Adam to stay the fuck away from the bad fruit tree.
Then one day Satan showed up, in the form of a snake.
I guess security in Paradise was a little lax. Satan liked to hang out in the bad tree and fuck with Adam and Eve, taunting them with his delicious forbidden fruit.
Sure enough, Adam gave in, ate the fruit, and in doing so committed the first sin, thus fucking things up for all the rest of us for all of eternity (THANKS, DOUCHE). God was pissed, kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise, and God Himself committed the first murder, killing an animal and skinning it to clothe Adam and Eve, because being publicly naked was no longer okay, and that's why Europe has way better beaches than America. The museum illustrates this scene in gruesome detail guaranteed to give children nightmares:
With Paradise gone, everything got shitty. People were mean, they had to work to find food, they had to build shelter. Animals started eating other animals, dinosaurs were now terrible man-eating lizards instead of friendly pets, it rained, people started getting hang nails and paper cuts and diarrhea and bad breath and everything else that sucks about life - all because that cockbag Adam just had to have his fucking fruit.
It seems a tad harsh, punishing all of mankind for one asshole's mistake - but I guess God is like a jealous girlfriend: Her man gives in and tastes that forbidden fruit just once and she'll hold it against him forever. Maybe Dishwalla was onto something.
You know, now that I've been refreshed on the specifics of the whole Garden of Eden thing, I have a few questions I never would have thought of back in Sunday School, for any Creationists who might be reading. I guess I'm just a bit fuzzy on exactly how far the concept of "Paradise" extends:
- Did poop smell different in Paradise?
- Did Adam's balls get itchy in Paradise? Did he ever experience erectile difficulty? Did Eve get her, you know, monthly visitor? None of those things sound like Paradise to me, but The Bible isn't quite clear.
- Before sin entered the world, it was okay to be naked, but was it okay to masturbate? What about butt sex? Creampies? Bukkake? Coprophilia? None of those could be sins if there was no sin yet, right? How about ass-to-mouth? I really just can't see it being called "Paradise" if there's no ass-to-mouth.
Anyway, so humanity carried on for a while post-Paradise, on a steady decline now that it had to deal with murders and famine and herpes. People got so shitty with each other, it seemed, that our feisty Old Testament God wanted a clean slate, so He decided to flood the entire world, killing off everyone except a handful of true believers, led by a guy named Noah. Noah was told by God to build a big fucking boat to survive the flood, which we all know as Noah's Ark. At the Creation Museum, the Ark is presented in historical detail as matter-of-factly as a real museum might present the Apollo 1 or the Enola Gay.
An elaborate life-sized set piece illustrating the Ark's construction is complete with animatronic characters - among them Noah, who apparently wasn't just any Jew, but a cartoon New York Jew (from the future):
The next section of the museum displays models of the completed Ark as Noah loads it with two of each kind of animal in the entire world - including, of course, the dinosaurs:
Dinosaurs, naturally, were still around in Noah's time, and he was able to fit them on the Ark by choosing smaller juvenile dinosaurs. Obviously. But how did he get all these animals from around the world to line up and march calmly, single file, into his Ark? Well, God helped out with that part. Obviously. Creation "science" has a habit of following common sense until it hits a wall, then using divine intervention to explain the rest. How convenient.
So Noah and the animals boarded the Ark, and it rained for forty days and forty nights or whatever, flooding the entire world, leaving all the sinners to drown, but only after getting eaten by tigers, according to this diorama:
When I was looking at this particular display, a mother was standing next to me with her child, no older than two years. She pointed at this gruesome miniature scene and told her impressionable spawn, in a lullaby-soft tone, "Look at all the sinners, they're all dying because they didn't obey God. Look how sad they are! They're all dying! But Noah is okay in the Ark because he accepted God in his heart." Right. Get that toddler primed for a lifetime of God-fearing guilt. That's what a two year old should be thinking about, you fucking twatbag.
The museum spends a lot of time with the flood, because that's the YEC method of explaining more or less everything: fossils, continents, The Grand Canyon, the Ice Age, Mt. Everest, and any other geographic or atmospheric phenomena that would seemingly require thousands or millions of years in order to exist. It's such a perfect explanation for every fossil record ever discovered, that Ken Ham's little butt-pal Buddy Davis wrote a fun song about it - a cheerful little children's tune called "Billions Of Dead Things." Enjoy:
I don't know about you, but I'd find it just a tad morbid to hear my five year old singing songs about all the billions of dead things buried by a flood designed to kill all the sinners. But hey, I am a sinner - and a damned good one at that - so what do I know? Unfortunately, neither the song nor the museum offer any satisfying explain as to why a God who could create an entire planet and populate it with millions of species in less than a week would need such a convoluted plan to get rid of all the sinners.
When the flood was finished, Noah came off the Ark with all his animals, and God told them to "be fruitful and multiply," which meant, of course, that animals should just keep fucking until they rapidly transformed into a wide variety of new species, as illustrated in the diagram below:
You're probably looking at that diagram thinking it looks an awful lot like an animal evolving over millions of years. Um, no. This is a post-flood horse changing over a few thousand years. DUH! It's all explained very clearly in the fine print:
Right. See? Divine intervention. Oh, and what ever happened to dinosaurs? Well, they lived for a while, and then just kind of died out, as recently as four hundred years ago, like any other endangered species. The obvious evidence that dinosaurs were around even after the flood? Dragons! Obviously. Yes, dragon myths around the world were the result of real dinosaurs co-existing with man. They were hunted by King Arthur in Medieval England, and used Flintstones-style in Ancient China:
And there you have it. The real, true, history of the world. And if you don't believe it, well, the museum has a place for you, too. At one point, the Creationist history lesson takes a divisive turn, interrupted with a detour into, literally, "Sin City."
Visitors walk through a dark, eerily-lit alley, wallpapered with magazine articles chronicling the downfall of Christian values at the hands of a modern society that turned its back on God. Sirens wail, trash litters the corners, graffiti covers the walls - it's a fear-mongering, xenophobic red state portrayal of secular, crime-ridden urban wastelands like New York or Los Angeles, meant to embody everything that terrifies America's heartland. Broken windows look into broken secular homes, where screens display all-too-common scenarios of Godless teenagers getting pregnant, drinking, smoking marijuana. Sounds like a hell of a party to me, but apparently it's the work of Satan, and it's all because of the poison of evolutionary science, which is unsubtly illustrated in a laughably melodramatic scene where the giant wrecking ball of "millions of years" is shown smashing into the side of a church:
This is the Jack Chick brand of divisive, spook-show extremist Christianity that I would have been disappointed to see left out of the museum. After all, what's Christianity without a hearty dose of fear? In the cold concrete halls that follow, spooky sound effects of screams and fire accompany projections displaying the horrors of a sinful world: Drug addiction, abortion, natural disasters, Nazis, disease, poverty. Let me reiterate that Hitler and abortion seem to be treated as equally evil in this display. You can see the fear in the wide eyes of young children as they pass through these halls, their developing brains wiring the foundation for a lifetime at odds with anything perceived to be unChristian - science included.
Like all good museums, this one ends by dumping you into a gift shop. Here you'll find hundreds of t-shirts, books, and DVDs chock full of delusional YEC propaganda. The t-shirts weren't as ironically awesome as I'd hoped (Christians aren't exactly famous for their fashion sense), but naturally, I had to pick up a DVD. I found one designed for kids, a combination of lectures and songs presented by Ken Ham himself, carefully designed to cure your little ones of all rational thought. It's called "Dinosaurs, Genesis, & The Gospel," and it doesn't disappoint. You've already seen a couple clips from this idiotic masterpiece, but here's another collection of highlights for your enjoyment:
As fun as it is to laugh in jaw-dropped amazement at the idiotic ranting of a madman, there's a genuine danger in all of this that shouldn't be discounted: These people are fiercely indoctrinating their children, spawning new generations of fanatics who believe themselves engaged in a culture war with the world at large, and want to discredit science and change our laws to get their way. Being in a culture war with drug use and teen pregnancy is one thing, but when you set your cross hairs on science - that which is the foundation of every aspect of our modern lives, and the key to advancing our civilization and preserving our planet - suddenly religious tolerance has reached its limit. As rational people we must not be afraid to call these fanatics crazy - to trivialize them and dump them in the rubbish bin of culture alongside other dangerously deranged fringe groups. Young Earth Creationism, or even Intelligent Design, deserve not to be engaged in debate, not to be heard in government, but rather a spot in society's looney bin alongside Scientology, the Klu Klux Klan, NAMBLA, neocons, Juggalos, moon landing hoax conspiracy theorists, adult babies, and the RIAA. But don't think for one second I'm advocating the removal of a museum like this. Religious freedom is an important right, and as you can tell, I love indulging in some good ol' fashioned nutty religious pageantry - I just want to make sure that we, as a society, never ever allow this to gain any acceptance as a valid alternative to hard-won science.
On the way out of the museum, you can get your picture taken in front of a green screen, and purchase a souvenir photo of yourself inserted into one of several scenes from
For as wordy of an article as this is, it's all kind of summed up right there, isn't it?
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since this article was published, it has been brought to my attention in the very lively comments section that, as recently as 2004, 60 percent of Americans take the Bible's account of creation as literal truth. Not 60 percent of Christians - 60 percent of Americans. I now remember hearing this statistic at the time - apparently it caused enough mental trauma to warrant repression. I tried to give people of faith the benefit of the doubt in my assumption that most Christians subscribed to a brand of Creationism which adheres at least slightly to reality. This, it seems, was a drastic mistake. In reviewing this article, please disregard all references to Young Earth Creationism as "fringe," and emphasize all references to "bat-shit crazy."
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